It's uber-fun for me to host an old friend of mine here. Tiffany and I met nine years ago in grad school in Montana. After discovering a shared passion for fantasy literature, we began trading books and manuscripts. This fall, her first novel came out, In the Serpent's Coils, the first in the Hallowmere series. It's a dark fantasy set just after the Civil War in a world where fairies aren't at all cute. The second book, By Venom's Sweet Sting, comes out in just a month, and the third early next year. (Talk about frenzied writing deadlines!) I think my favorite thing about Tiffany's writing is the lusciousness, those juicy sentences that just pop out and make me say, "Wow." And just because she's my friend, doesn't mean she gets to escape the interview torture.
TT: Hmmm…It definitely is a laugh. ;) I realized I wanted to write when I was nine, after one of those author school project things. I wrote my favorite author at the time, Madeleine L’Engle, and she wrote back! And I thought--‘Hey, maybe real people really do write books!’ (I was under the impression that librarians magically tricked the books onto their shelves out of nowhere, you see). Then, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. Went through school. Decided to go to grad school (twice!) and ended up meeting your fabulous self! During our summer writing extravaganza (wherein we challenged one another to write a novel which we believed we’d have published by the fall ;)), I wrote a dark epic fantasy. (And Shannon wrote the first draft of The Goose Girl--‘magine that!) After various long and winding paths through the publishing wilderness, I was contacted by my editor, Stacy Whitman, who had met Shannon at a conference, about possibly doing a young adult dark fantasy for Wizards of the Coast/Mirrorstone. I proposed a new idea I’d been thinking about, a stand-alone novelization of “The Marsh King’s Daughter” by Hans Christian Andersen. When Stacy said, “Can you make that ten books?” I gulped and said, “Sure.”
What’s different about being a published author than what you had imagined when you were younger?
Probably the anxiety. You get used to being anxious about whether or not you’ll be rejected, whether or not you’ll ever see your book on that shelf. But going behind the publishing curtain brings an entirely new set of difficulties--sales, promotion, reviews, etc., etc. Suddenly, you’re a one-person company, in some ways. (And in some ways not). It’s a bit frightening.
But it can also be quite glorious. I never realized the absolute pleasure of talking to teen readers, answering their questions and feeling their passion for reading and writing so viscerally. It’s very humbling to hear how much your book or your personal path to publication has inspired someone.
What has been the reaction been to your authordom? Do your co-workers and neighbors know? How do people respond to the “dark fantasy” and “young adult” labels?
The reaction has been interesting to say the least. For the most part, people have been very supportive, particularly my colleagues. I don’t think my neighbors know, except they probably wonder why on earth I travel so much! And why does the Fed Ex man visits me so regularly.
As to the labels, some people seem to think that if it’s YA, it won’t be a fun read for adults. More often, though, I get folks who are worried that boys won’t enjoy it because the main character and her friends are all female, even though I’ve had many comments from boys who liked it just as much as girls. Some people are worried by the dark fantasy, but many people prefer it. I’m just trying to spin a good, creepy yarn by using authentic facts and sources to make the fantasy feel real. It’s like the difference between light and dark chocolate. (Dark chocolate’s better for you, of course! ).
How did the Hallowmere series come to be? And if you would, what are your plans for future projects?
Well…there was once this girl named Shannon…Kidding! I had wanted for a long time to novelize “The Marsh King’s Daughter”, but was never sure how. I tried it in a modern setting, but it just didn’t work. I decided trying to pop it into the wayback machine and see what happened. It turned out that the Reconstruction era worked wonders for the kind of mythic and cultural goodies I had in mind. So, it stuck. And then all these Fey Folk started showing up, and I began questioning how Fey Folk could learn to adapt to the Industrial Revolution. The backstory for Hallowmere just dropped out of nowhere. Oddly enough, though, the person I thought would be the main character in the series got shoved aside by another one--Corrine--who said, “Me, me, me! I want to do it!” So, I did and she did, and here we are.
I’m currently working on Book 7 of the Hallowmere series. (Some of the books are co-authored after the founding trilogy). After I finish the final Hallowmere book, I have another proposal I’m working on about…don’t laugh…Charles Darwin the vampire. Crazy, no?
What’s the best thing you can imagine coming out of your writing?
The best thing I can imagine is that I get to tell stories that entertain and inspire readers and writers for the rest of my life. And if I could do that all the time for my livelihood, I would be eternally grateful for the privilege.
Thanks, amiga! I love your story. I think it's so good for other struggling writers out there to hear that it may be a long process, but ultimately hopeful. Of course, you work your butt off. (Ah, I remember the time your computer ate the only file of your novel...such fun...) Welcome home to the Young Adult market. It's a great place to be!